Proof That I’m Not Just Kidding Myself

Yesterday, during our last class, I asked my literature students if they’d be so kind as to write me a letter giving me some feedback about their experiences in my classroom. I wanted a critique: what worked, what didn’t, what would they suggest I do differently for next term and what would they advise me to keep the same.

I got this letter from one of my A students. While I expected her to be positive about the class – she’d told me many times that it was her favorite this term – I wasn’t prepared for her to tell me that she came away from my class with EXACTLY what I was aiming for my students to know. When she talks about seeing connections to literature in her everyday life, I do a little fist-pump. THAT’S what lit. classes are for, in my opinion; plot and setting an characterization are just mechanics – it’s the theme and the experience of the stories that really matter.

I’m crowing a little by posting this, I know, but it’s so easy to gripe about lousy grammar and apathetic students that I feel compelled to put something positive up every once in a while. Indulge me, please.

Hi Chili,

To start off this letter discussing my experience with Literature class, I’d like to say that I absolutely loved the class. It was easily my favorite of the semester, and the one I was always most excited to go to. I’ve always been one to prefer just reading and enjoying something to sitting down and analyzing it, but I’m not quite so against it anymore. I loved picking apart books and characters and motivations with you and the rest of the class.

I think you made the right decision by skipping over the monotonous and overdone discussion of plot, characters, setting, etc. In discussing the themes, I think we cover all of those things anyway, just not in a direct approach kind of way. I realize we had a really good dynamic within the class, and (just about) everyone was right there for most of it, so we didn’t really need any of that. It’s also possible you might have a class at some point that needs it, but for us, skipping it was a good call.

I absolutely agree with you on the subject of ‘kid movies’ and ‘pop culture’. The fact that you brought both of these into play like you did made the class much more approachable for a college student-and let’s face it, for anyone without a Lit degree. I loved watching The Lion King and picking out pieces that were so similar to Hamlet, and I loved watching The Muppets’ Christmas Carol and seeing how true to Dickens they remained. I think because you were so open to pop culture, the things I learned in your class are going to stick with me for longer than other classes. For example, even just last night I was drawing a connection between A Christmas Carol and Home Alone. A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but there were a few things that were similar. And I love that I can do that now. That I’m that much more perceptive to similarities in themes, and choices made in movie adaptations. I love that you taught me to do that.

All in all, your class was an absolutely fantastic experience for me, and because of that I’m not sure I’d really change anything. You picked great novels and stories for us to read, and the movies you showed us were just right too. I loved the class discussions, and I liked that you had us write reactions right away to a lot of things-that you gave us that time to just gather our thoughts. I’d love to give you some suggestions for future classes, but I can’t think of any. Again, our class dynamic is definitely part of what made the class so special for me, and I think any changes you’d have to make would be based on the differences in classes.

I’m definitely going to miss coming to class twice a week and indulging in all that thinking, and it’s inspired me to really jump headfirst into reading like I used to. (I’ve read at least eight books since Thanksgiving, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve read like that.)

So, in closing, I guess I just want to say thank you. For making your class such a comfortable environment, for really encouraging all of us to get creative with literature, for opening me up to a kind of analyzing I’ve always shied away from, introducing me to the -real- versions of some stories, and just for you being you. Your class was the highlight of the semester, so…keep it up.

Merry Christmas, Chili. I hope you have a most excellent break.

It’ll be a better break for her having sent this letter, that’s for sure!

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7 Comments

Filed under Literature, out in the real world, self-analysis, success!, the good ones, writing

7 responses to “Proof That I’m Not Just Kidding Myself

  1. It’s moments like this that make teaching worthwhile. It’s so easy to focus on what’s not working that we too often overlook what is working! Kudos to you.

  2. Wow, that is such a beautiful way to end the semester… It shows that you are a wonderful teacher. I loved how you had your students discover the similarities between the Lion King and Hamlet, and how you watched the Muppets. You seem to have a great sense of knowing what makes your students tick. Enjoy this wonderful feeling!

  3. Organic Mama

    My heart is so full for you and your teacherly acumen and passion. Congratulations, my friend!!

  4. Good stuff. Once I wrote a story and sent it to some school kids in Mississippi, then didn’t think much more about it. In a few weeks, they sent back page after page about how it inspired them to read. I’m an old Doc, and have seen a lot of things, but it brought me to tears.
    One of the kids said they couldn’t believe a “famous writer” would take the time to communicate with high school kids, and I wrote them back to clarify.
    “I’m not a famous writer, I’m just a Doc trying to tell a few old stories,” I said.
    My agent said that I might not realize it, but once you have touched someone far away; someone you have never met, with your writing, then you are, by definition, a famous writer.
    I was hooked. Visit me at drtombibey.wordpress.com. Keep on teaching those young’uns to love words and books. You are now a famous writer, too!

    -Dr. B

  5. Woo hoo! How wonderful for you!!

  6. A tribute to you and your teaching, Mrs Chili. That’s one of the best kinds of feedback.

  7. Ms. Chili – I came across your blog when I stopped by Dr. B’s for a regular visit. I’m really glad I came, though, and I plan to visit again. I taught secondary and college English for about 25 years and retired into bluegrass about ten years ago. Recently I’ve started my blog, and I’d welcome your visit. Come on over, take a look, and see if you feel at home there. – Ted

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